Located on the southern end of the Washington Park Arboretum, there is a three-and-a-half acre formal garden offering the kind of peaceful retreat you would never expect to find inside a city as busy as Seattle. It encourages you to tune into your senses and tune out the noise of everyday life, but this oasis offers more than that simple serenity. In the Seattle Japanese Garden, there is a surprise around every corner.
The garden has a history as rich as Seattle itself. It was first conceptualized in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1957 that proponents began raising funds for its construction. In 1959, the garden’s plans were finally completed. It was created under the direct supervision of world-renowned Japanese garden designer, Juki Lida, giving it an authentic touch that would otherwise be lost.
Much like the traditional gardens of Japan, the biggest attraction of the Seattle Japanese Garden is the Chado (genuine tea ceremonies) that occur on the second Saturday of each month at 1:00pm and 2:00pm. If you’re in the city on a tea ceremony weekend, you don’t want to miss this extraordinary opportunity for cultural enrichment. These demonstrations last about 40-50 minutes, and you can observe them from the patio at no charge. If you would like to try the “tea and sweets” that are served during the ceremony, you can purchase a tea ticket at $7 for adults or $5 for children. No reservation is required, but keep in mind that there are only 20 tickets available. For those of you who do wish to participate in the ceremony inside of the Shoseian Teahouse, the cost is the same, but you will need to make reservations in advance by calling 206-684-4725.
Other than the second Saturday of every month, perhaps the best time to visit the Seattle Japanese Garden is during one of its special events. The annual grand opening, for example, includes a very dramatic ceremonial blessing by a Shinto priest that is interesting to see. You may also want to add the Japanese holiday, Children’s Day (kodomo no hi), to your calendar. This is a day that Japanese culture reserves for celebrating the happiness of children. The garden offers a number of fun kid-focused activities, including free food for koi feeding. Other cultural events throughout the year will feature local calligraphers, taiko ensembles, dance troupes, and traditional musicians.
Admission to the garden itself is $6 for adults, $4 for kids ages 5-12, and $4 for seniors. Children under five enter free. Special events may have a separate admission price, which will be posted ahead of time. You can subscribe to their email newsletter or keep an eye on the garden’s Facebook page for updates on event dates, times, and admission costs. If you’re interested in purchasing an annual pass for yourself or your entire family, visit the garden’s website for rates.
The garden will be open from March 1 through November 31. A day at the Seattle Japanese Garden will be time well spent, so don’t let the 2016 season pass you by.